Esports has slipped through the cracks when it comes to regulating alcohol advertising, according to new research from the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education.
“Covert” marketing is used within games to give alcohol brands access to young audiences, which in turn is impacting their behaviour.
“Esports is rapidly becoming the largest entertainment industry in the world, with an audience of 500 million globally and more than $1 billion in revenue annually,” said University of Queensland associate professor Sarah Jane Kelly.
“And although competitive online gaming is still emerging in Australia, with an audience of four million people, our study has found esports is already a highly successful environment for alcohol companies to reach minors and young adults.
“Our findings highlight four factors that make digital regulation a priority issue: the high prevalence of unhealthy product advertising; the monetisation and growth of esports; the complete absence of regulation; and last, but not least, the fact that more than half of the study cohort would be considered addicted gamers.”
As well as being more inclined to purchase alcohol from the brands that advertise in games, heavy gamers (those that played or watched 3-4 days per week or more) were also shown to be heavier drinkers than more casual gamers.
The problem lies with the lack of regulation around alcohol advertising in the emerging esports industry, according to the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE).
“Our digital environments, which now include esports, are inundated with covert, ungated marketing, giving alcohol companies unrestricted contact with children and adolescents,” said FARE Chief Executive Michael Thorn.
“Alcohol marketers are capitalising on high-tech advertising models, trickery and tactics that target Australia’s love of sharing cultural and sporting moments, in life and online,” he said.
Thorn called on the Federal Government to make regulating advertising in the space a “top priority”, in light of the recent ACCC Digital Platforms Inquiry.